Dr. Benjamin Frankfort and Dr. Benjamin Musher’s friendship started in the spring of 1996 with a phone call that shook Frankfort awake at 4 a.m. Musher was calling him from Israel where he was spending the year between graduating from college and starting medical school at Baylor College of Medicine.
Frankfort also would be starting medical school at Baylor in the fall. At the recommendation of his mentor, Frankfort reached out to Benjamin’s father – Dr. Daniel Musher, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases expert at Baylor – to learn more about the Jewish community in Houston. The senior Musher recommended that Frankfort get in touch with his son; he thought the two would get along.
“Since it was kind of hard to reach Israel by phone, I told him to have his son call me,” Frankfort said. “Apparently, my good friend has a problem with time zones because he called me at 4 o’clock in the morning, and I was half asleep.”
“I was working all day in the banana fields, and the kibbutz where I lived only had one payphone so I had to call at that time,” Musher said with a laugh.
Left photo: Dr. Benjamin Frankfort (left) and Dr. Benjamin Musher (right) at the BCM banquet in December 1997 celebrating the completion of the End of Basic Sciences test and the conclusion of their didactic training in medical school. They started in the clinics a few weeks later.
Right photo: Dr. Benjamin Musher (left) and Dr. Benjamin Frankfort (right) recreate their iconic pose in September 2017. According to Frankfort, “Nothing has changed. I still have facial hair and we are still smiling.”
Luckily, the time difference didn’t affect the introduction. After a 10-minute call, they agreed to share a condo in the medical center together. When they both arrived at Baylor in the fall, they became fast friends. They quickly learned that in addition to medicine, they shared several other common interests like baseball and music. The two bonded while playing on the same softball team, going to concerts and even performing music at the Baylor coffeehouse together.
“Even without being roommates, we probably would spend 16 hours a day together,” Musher said. “We had a tight-knit group of friends. We studied together, exercised together, ate together and drank together.”
During their third year, their career paths diverged. Frankfort started working on his Ph.D., and Musher’s focus turned to clinical rotations. Then in 2000, Musher graduated from Baylor and left Houston to start his residency at the University of Washington in Seattle. Frankfort stayed for several years at Baylor to finish his Ph.D. and complete his clinical rotations, and then went to Baltimore for a residency at Johns Hopkins University.
But throughout the years, the two remained close friends. They stayed connected through phone calls and cross-country flights. When Musher moved to the University of Pennsylvania for his fellowship, the two would meet in either Philadelphia or Baltimore, and sometimes they met in the middle. They shared life milestones together. Frankfort and his wife met thanks to an introduction from Musher. They were in each other’s wedding parties, and their wives became friends. When they had kids, their daughters became friends.
Then in 2009, both of their paths brought them back to Houston and Baylor. The Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center was recruiting someone to build the gastrointestinal oncology program, and Musher took the job. He is now an associate professor of medicine and director of medical oncology at the McNair Campus. Frankfort returned to Baylor for a one-year fellowship in glaucoma surgery and became a faculty member the next year. He is now an associate professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience and co-director of the Medical Scientist Training Program.
Today, they continue to go through major life moments together. They helped each other when both of their homes flooded during hurricane Harvey. They later built new houses in the same neighborhood, and now they live just three blocks apart. Their daughters are friends in the seventh grade at St. John’s School. During the COVID-19 pandemic, their families have stayed in touch through socially distant walks in the neighborhood.
Their musical bond has stayed strong too. They share season tickets to the opera, and because neither of their wives is an opera fan, they have regular guys’ nights with pizza and a concert.
“Ben and I feel very strongly that while our careers are very important to us, we also think that having an extracurricular life is very important. It enriches our health and what we do at work,” Musher said. “When you are able to mix career and fun in your friendships, it builds a strong relationship.”
“Benjamin and I do totally different things within the field of medicine. But we both respect each other’s commitment to academia, education and excellence. It’s nice when you can have someone who’s fun to hang out with and talk to about your career,” Frankfort said. “I had no particular tie to Houston before I moved here in my 20s. Houston has become my home in large part because of Benjamin.
– By Molly Chiu